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Inspiration for year’s end

If you’ve met our president, Debbie Bresette, you know how inspirational she can be with both words and actions. And she knows no stranger. And only sees the best in all situations. I think every organization deserves a leader like ours – one that’s full of big ideas and passionate for what they do. Her personality shapes this United Way – making this a positive, ambitious, motivating and ever-moving-forward place to work. So with 2013 coming to a close and our 90th anniversary just around the corner (2014!), we decided to sit down with our President, Debbie Bresette, to get just a little bit more inspiration until the new year. Why have you dedicated your life to this work? I’ve always thought that with the right people in the right setting, we could really move people to a place where we could have honest conversations about poverty. Before I worked at United Way I could see that the organization brought these people together – in the right place and at the right time – and that excited me.  I don’t want to be involved with changing one person – I want our systems themselves to change to support more people – and doing this kind of work gives me great satisfaction. Why does the work matter? I never wanted to work in a job that had no meaning – I was born into this life to make a difference – or at least try. I’ve also seen many injustices in […]

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Research shows UWATX Play To Learn makes parents happy, helps children be school-ready

After an 18-month evaluation, we have firm numbers behind something we’ve been hearing for years: UWATX’s innovative Play To Learn initiative is changing lives – read the summary of results [PDF]. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhsCzogMYL4[/youtube] Play To Learn is a new, scalable early intervention program designed to bridge the critical gaps in learning among children. Like all our work, the project targets low-income from low-income neighborhoods in Austin and surrounding areas.  The project is a result of an extensive child assessment process and data mapping initiative in Austin’s low-income neighborhoods. Play To Learn: A course that teaches parents how to help their children become school ready while incorporating local resources and tablet technology. The Play To Learn project falls under UWATX’s Success By 6 program. Thanks to a $1-million grant from Samsung Austin Semiconductor, 212 families enrolled in Play To Learn from May 2012 to April 2013- and an astonishing 93 percent (198 families) completed the 8-week in-person sessions as well as the year-long library portion. The Samsung grant also funded an 18-month evaluation from a team of researchers at The University of Texas at Austin School of Human Ecology – the full research report shows  astonishing results [PDF]. “Play To Learn was found to be an effective, short-term program for helping young children develop learning skills, including media use, as well as encouraging parental involvement in learning,” said Sue Carpenter, Sr. Director of Success By 6. “The program provides evidence that technology, local resources and a high-quality curriculum can make a significant difference in the […]

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UWATX kicks off service year with 5 new AmeriCorps VISTAs

After wrapping up a banner year with two Success By 6 VISTAs, we are  welcoming five new AmeriCorps VISTAs to the Strategic Programs team. As one of several high-performing projects across Texas, we gained the opportunity to bring on two additional VISTA members to support Financial Opportunity and the Navigation Center‘s outreach work, while continuing to support Success By 6. The addition of new VISTA members means that UWATX will have capacity to take on new projects and the staffing to support increased systems building. Continuing support for Success By 6:  VISTAs have been crucial to building capacity in early care and family support systems. In order to continue and expand this work the Success By 6 VISTAs, Jeffrey King and Rebecca Nawls-Walker, will support data collection and analysis for the School Readiness Action Plan 2-year update, create and facilitate processes to incorporate parent input into the SRAP, coordinate programs for the Success By 6 Center Project, and manage our digital outreach programs, Text4Baby and Ready Rosie. New efforts in Financial Opportunity:  Building upon the early care and education work, the Financial Opportunity VISTA, Willy Raedy, will play a pivotal role focusing on 2-Generation strategies: an approach to early interventions that combines workforce training with high quality child care. Building capacity around 2-Generation efforts improves outcomes for the whole family by focusing on improving parent’s job readiness while providing early interventions for their children. Additionally, Willy will facilitate the blending of financial literacy into workforce development services and manage the […]

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What impact could YOUR holiday gifts make? #GivingTuesday

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 141 million people spent an average of $400 each during the first “official” weekend of the holiday shopping season. Over the course of the full  season, shoppers will spend an average of $750 on holiday gifts for loved ones. Investing the same amount in our community could make a significant impact:  As you check off your list, filled with family members, friends and other loved ones, consider adding one more to your holiday list: our community. For what you may spend one toy, a piece of clothing or a new gadget, you can make a lasting and meaningful impact for Austin’s future.  If you’re curious what your shopping habits could mean if you invested in our community, check out our impact calculator to find out. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, celebrate Giving Tuesday by buying a gift for our community: text UWATXHOLIDAY to 85944 to donate $10.  Gifts are a way to recognize what’s important in our lives and show appreciation for the things that matter. We hope that Austin’s future ranks high on your list – make a gift today.  Information compiled from the National Retail Foundation and UWATX Impact Calculator. With text-to-give, One-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill. Msg & data rates may apply. Available on Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile. Must be 18 or older or have authorization of account holder. Donations benefit United Way of Austin, collected by Innogive Foundation. Subject to terms: igfn.org/t. Privacy policy: igfn.org/p. Text STOP to […]

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Looking for a warm meal this December?

Each year, our Navigation Center sees a spike of calls during the holiday season – people looking to help by donating food, toys, gifts or their time and also calls from people looking for a warm meal for the holidays. We’ve compiled this calendar of resources that are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC to make it a little easier to find that warm meal: Click on the image above to see a larger version. Know someone looking for assistance? Tell them to give us a call at 2-1-1 to get connected to resources in our community.

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Results are in: Middle School Matters changes students’ lives, earns high marks from schools

Two years ago, we set out to change the culture of three middle schools serving low-income communities with Middle School Matters, a project in our Target Graduation program. Now, we’re seeing promising results for students, hearing great feedback from teachers and seeing powerful changes on the campuses. Click through the interactive infographic to explore some of these exciting results or download the full report for the 2012-2013 school year.

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Meet Naomi and Tirzah

In the Greater Austin area, child poverty rates are nearly 25 percent higher than the national average and only 13 percent of children raised in Austin’s low-income neighborhoods enter kindergarten ready to learn. These concerning statistics are the target of UWATX’s Success By 6 program through initiatives like Play To Learn, a project that targets low-income families from under-resourced neighborhoods in Greater Austin and surrounding areas. Play To Learn provides  high-quality early education for children alongside their parents. The goal is to help parents learn how to put their children on the path to success in school and life. We recently say down with Play To Learn mom, Naomi, and her daughter (with the most precious blonde curls you’ll ever see), Tirzah, to hear how the program is supporting them.   Why did you and your daughter start participating in United Way’s Play To Learn program? I was in search of fun things to do with my daughter. She’s at the age where she likes to explore and interact and, most importantly, be active, so I thought this was a great opportunity for us to learn and grow together. Do you feel the program is having an impact on you and your daughter? It has had an impact in both our lives. I believe it’s very important to set routines and schedules with toddlers and I had no idea on where and how to start; Play To Learn has helped me create a safe environment for her, where there is discipline and […]

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HOW TO: make Thanksgiving a learning opportunity

Thanksgiving is a time when the whole family gathers together to appreciate good food, watch parades and football and be thankful for one another. It’s also an opportunity to support learning. It can be tricky to figure out how to turn a busy holiday into a learning experience, so our experts from Success By 6 and Target Graduation brainstormed a few simple activities:   Cooking teaches math & science skills Children can help in the kitchen in a variety of ways that help them learn. You can introduce young children to measurement by getting their help measuring out wet and dry ingredients. For children through middle-school-age, this can be a good time to practice conversions and fractions, particularly when doubling or halving a recipe. Cooking can also support nonfiction reading skills when children study the cookbook, and learning about nutrition and the chemical processes involved in cooking can further science skills. Read more about cooking with children.   Making place cards supports language development If you’re having your whole family over for Thanksgiving, children can help make place cards as a fun crafting activity. At its most basic, making place cards helps children practice reading and writing, which is important for young children. This activity can range from simply writing names on existing place cards to taking on a more ambitious craft project, which would support fine motor skill development. Enjoy some child-appropriate place card inspiration.   Expressing gratitude supports social-emotional development Saying what you’re thankful for is a time-honored […]

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Bank On Central Texas connects individuals to bank accounts

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2U4aejO1BI[/youtube]   At United Way for Greater Austin, we know that having a bank account is a critical first step toward thriving financially. That’s why, for the past two years, we’ve been partnering with banks, credit unions and government to get more people banked as part of the Bank On Central Texas initiative, part of our Financial Opportunity program. In our short history, we’ve already opened 12,000 bank accounts, helping people make that critical first step on the path to thriving. Recently, we undertook an ambitious project to raise awareness about the benefits of a bank accounts. We got on the radio, went online and spoke in-person at events to tell people about their options and how a bank account could help them. And we succeeded – we reached thousands of individuals and the number of online inquiries about the program skyrocketed. We also got to meet so many people who were helped through our outreach, including Mark Mead of Alamo Lawn Care, who is using his account to manage his business, and Alfredo and Patricia Hernandez who didn’t have a bank account before. Special thanks to all of the financial institutions who partner with us on this exciting initiative – and to Don Kendrick, Regional President of Wells Fargo’s Central Texas Region and UWATX Board Member, for his support and for narrating the above presentation.  

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Our AmeriCorps VISTAs impacted 1K+ lives in 1 year!

This month, we said goodbye to Hannah Berle and Tyler O’Neill as they closed their year as Americorps VISTA members supporting Success By 6 (SB6), which focuses on our youngest and most vulnerable community members. The mission of Americorps VISTA members is to create and expand programs that bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. In 2013, Tyler and Hannah did just that by managing and leading several key initiatives. Their VISTA service connected them to more than 800 community leaders, volunteers and social service providers in the Austin area – and we’re so thankful for their incredible work. “Being an AmeriCorps VISTA at United Way has given me the opportunity to work with and learn from experts. I see the impact of United Way every day, large or small, behind the scenes or directly, and it is incredible.” –Hannah Hannah was responsible for providing support to early education centers serving low-income children in Austin. Through designing and implementing trainings to connect teachers to high-quality curricula to support their classrooms, Hannah helped ensure that nine early education centers had teachers trained to use Numbers Plus Preschool Math Curriculum. This curriculum, developed by HighScope Educational Research Foundation, is a comprehensive set of activities in English and Spanish designed to deliver developmentally appropriate content in five areas: Number Sense and Operations, Geometry, Measurement, Algebra, and Data Analysis. These activities help set the stage for later mathematical concepts. SB6 is dedicated to lasting academic gains for young children and Hannah’s diligent coordination […]

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